Gehamat Shibasaki's future at the Newcastle Knights is under a cloud with the out-of-favour centre wiped by the club for the remainder of this season despite having another year to run on his contract.
The 23-year-old is the only player from the Knights' top squad, apart from the out-of-action Edrick Lee, who did not travel to Queensland to join the NRL hub on the Sunshine Coast.
A total of 29 players and 12 staff made the trip north on Wednesday to go into quarantine at Twin Waters resort for a fortnight but we're told Shibasaki wasn't among them.
Two development players, Jack Johns and Chris Randall, were part of the player contingent. Among the prominent staff who didn't go was assistant coach Rory Kostjasyn, whose wife Natalie has just had a baby.
Shibasaki's snubbing doesn't come as a huge shock. It's fair to say he has been on the outer for quite some time.
He joined the Knights from Brisbane last year but has played only 14 top-grade games for the club and just three this season.
READ MORE: Saifiti's re-sign with Knights
He started on the wing and played poorly in a round-three loss to the Wests Tigers before playing centre in consecutive defeats to St George Illawarra and Gold Coast Titans. He was dumped after the Titans game and hasn't been sighted since.
A former Queensland under-20s rep and Junior Kangaroo, he arrived in town with plenty of wraps but unfortunately for coach Adam O'Brien, just hasn't kicked on.
Clearly, the Knights would now be regretting signing him for three years with Shibasaki having an option in his favour for 2022. They are keen to move him on but that will be easier said then done given he is unlikely to play again this season unless the COVID situation improves considerably.
Interestingly, his great grandfather was Japanese so Japanese rugby could potentially become an option if he opts not to hang around.
Finucane call soon
The Knights are expecting to hear within the next week whether Melbourne Storm and Blues prop Dale Finucane will join the club next season.
It's understood Finucane told clubs chasing his signature he would make a call on his future after Origin. We're hearing the Knights' offer is not as lucrative as others with interest from North Queensland, the Bulldogs and Wests Tigers along with the Storm.
Green light given
Despite only having 29 of their 30 roster spots filled, the Knights aren't rushing to sign another player for the rest of this season because they've been told by the NRL they don't have to.
Clubs are supposed to have 30 players in their top squad by no later than August 1 but the Knights have been told they can still count Blake Green in their roster even though he is now officially retired.
READ MORE: David Klemmer - Relocation is worth it.
As it stands, the club has been on the lookout for an extra outside back that may help them at the back end of the season but won't be signing just anyone.
Saulo on mend
Injured prop Pasami Saulo is around a month away from making a comeback from a badly broken leg suffered in a NSW Cup game against the Canberra Raiders in Wagga back in early May.
We're hearing Saulo won't play before round 22 but he still made the trip to the Sunshine Coast ahead of a fully fit Mat Croker with the club obviously presuming they may not return to Newcastle for the remainder of the season.
We're expecting things to get a little awkward during the build-up to the Knights' clash with the Sydney Roosters next weekend.
The two clubs are bunkered down at the Twin Waters resort on the Sunshine Coast with Manly and Penrith and while it's a big joint, it's not that big that the players won't be bumping into each other quite a bit.
"We'll be trying to avoid them and they'll be trying to avoid us next week," prop David Klemmer said.
Ponga saves ex-coach
There was more than a touch of irony in Kalyn Ponga's wonderful performance in his Origin return against the NSW Blues on Wednesday night that may well have helped save Paul Green's Queensland coaching job.
Green was understandably on thin ice and facing the sack if the Maroons were humbled again by the Blues in Origin III. But some Ponga magic was an integral part of preventing that from happening.
The irony is Green, despite any denials you might hear, was one of the chief reasons Ponga walked out on the Cowboys before signing with the Knights back in 2016.
O'Brien sweet with Watson
Knights coach Adam O'Brien says he has no problem with utility star Connor Watson's decision to baulk at signing a new contract with the club to test his value on the open market.
"Connor has been completely upfront with me about the whole process and I don't have an issue with it at all as long as he comes back to us at the end of it if he is considering an offer somewhere else," O'Brien said. "He has told me he will do that so I'm happy with that."
Watson was initially ringing rival coaches off his own bat but we understand he now has someone else doing his leg-work.
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